A forthcoming paper has used MICS UNICEF Survey Data for a sample of three Middle Eastern countries: Egypt, Sudan, and Palestine and employed Multilevel logistic regression to empirically investigate the impact of child marriage on a large set of women and children health-related indicators. The results showed that child marriage is generally associated with giving birth to children with higher under-five mortality rates. Also, women who marry before reaching the age of 18 are less likely to receive any form of antenatal care and more likely to give birth to children who later die.
Governments and public communities should pay close attention to improving the widespread, availability and affordability of education for girls and women nationwide regardless of the women’s residence area and levels of income. Subsidizing and income transfer programs should make sure that girls continue their education and do not leave schools due to income constraints. Availability and reachability of schools especially for girls living in slums or refugee camps that are located outside the peripheral areas of public services should be improved and families need to be constantly advised and guided about the importance of education to their children.
Within the MENA region that has the lowest global share of female literacy, Palestinian women are classified as the best-educated (The Royal Academy of Science International Trust [RASIT], 2017). Our analysis suggests that the better educational attainment of Palestinian women explains the low prevalence of child marriage and having relatively lower health deprivations relative to their counterparts in the other countries. Better educated women are not only capable of better caring about their health and the health of their children but also they are better wives, citizens and a catalyst for the development of their countries. As narrated by Hafez Ibrahim the Nile poet in his poem about knowledge and morals (Ibrahim, 1937): “A mother is a school, whenever you equipped her well, you prepared a nation with a fine race”.
Reference: Hassan, S.M. (2019). Health Repercussions of Child Marriage on Middle-Eastern Mothers and Their Children. preprint
There has been an intense debate in the
literature over the reasons behind the loose developmental effects of foreign
aid. Away from the straightforward reason that majority of aid flows follow
political rather than development objectives (Kanbur et al., 1999; Dreher, et
al. 2009). Further, several reasons have been introduced in the literature see
for example (Radelet, 2008; Bräutigam and Knack, 2004, and others). However,
these reasons can be condensed into two core causes, a) Lack of clear
development agenda by the recipient countries which result in misallocation
of aid and establishment of various simultaneous individual projects that even
if successfully completed will have limited impact on the development of the
target sectors; and b) The mismatch between donors, recipients, and target
beneficiaries’ priorities and needs that create an aid system that is
incapable and inadequate of achieving the entailed goals.
In response to common pitfalls of the aid
system, a new setting for aid disbursements based on sector-wide approaches
instead of individual projects was introduced by Kamel, et al. (1998) and was
later modified by (Kanbur, et al. 1999) and evolved into a system entitled the ‘common
pool approach’. Our following policy suggestions will build on these, however,
we bring in some modifications for the system implementation and evaluation.
The basic rationale behind the common pool
approach is that a pool of donors—instead of one— allocates unconditional funds
to a recipient country’s nationally representative reform plan and its
implementation strategy, instead of individual projects. Such a system would
increase the recipient country’s sense of ownership and commitment while
enhancing the achievability of developmental and reform goals relative to individual
uncoordinated projects approach. The major drawback is the minimisation of aid
received because many donors – besides political lobbies and private sector
firms – might not agree to fund national plans instead of individual selective
projects. In addition, donors’ ability to pursue their own interests,
conditions, and opinions will dwindle. Anyhow, detailed discussion for the
common pool system and sector-wide approach is found in formerly cited articles. Subsequently, we introduce a new system
which combines both approaches, sector-wide and common pool, whilst including
our personal reflections that will hopefully alleviate the expected drawbacks
of these approaches.
Figure A1 provides a basic graphical
representation of the new blended system. The graph is elaborated in the
The recipient country starts to move in the
direction of prohibiting all forms of aid transferred to individual
uncoordinated projects, but rather allows only aid channeled towards sectoral reform plans.
The governmental authority with the
cooperation of civil society, the private sector, policymakers, and citizens, formulate a reform plan for the target
A series of roundtable
meetings are held in the recipient country capital that involves potential
donors (single and multilateral), international experts, and other national
parties in order to receive feedback on the preliminary proposal (sponsoring
the meetings in the recipient country would ease national parties’ involvement
and cooperation, which reflects in a higher sense of belonging and ownership).
A final neat version of the proposal is
then reformulated along with its implementation strategy that involves foreign
and domestic shares. For instance, technical and human resources in the
implementation strategy are distributed as 70% domestic and 30% by the donor’s
side. One major drawback of the common pool approach is the lack of donor
involvement in the implementation, which in essence is a good thing to increase
the sense of ownership by the recipient. However, this is reflected in lower
lobbying by the private sector and political parties in the donor country to
step forward for similar approaches. We, therefore, propose a cooperative share
of interests, however still managed and authorised
by the domestic country and in the framework of the domestic strategy.
The donor authority in this phase lies in
accepting or rejecting the plan and the amount of fund provided, based on
credibility and achievability of the plan.
Donors together with the recipient
responsible authority would agree on a set of quantifiable and measurable
assessment measures that are monitored and reported by the authority itself, though
donors are also allowed to intervene in the monitoring and evaluation of these
measures. This is an incentive for the authority and other parties involved in the
strategy to abide by the rules and the plan. Also, in the case of system
corruption, which is the likely case in the majority of developing and poor
countries, it is well known that foreign assessment might intervene anytime to
inspect and evaluate. In addition, donors will be more relieved and secure when
they have a hand in the evaluation process, unlike the common pool approach
which prohibits any form of foreign intervention in the process unless
requested by the recipient.
Finally, a renewable annual funding plan is
offered based on the realisation of these
measures; failure to abide by the authority results in a violation of the
contract. By doing this we eliminate any chances of aid misallocation,
corruptive activities, and other illegal traits because the recipient knows for
sure that failure will hinder any future possibilities of funding for other
reform plans. Moreover, the ex-ante participation of civil society and citizens
makes the government accountable to the public, which also affects their
Eventually, let me conclude with this phrase from Kanbur, et al. (1999) “The possibility of the decline in aid will require a substantial amount of confidence on the part of recipients who adopt the approach. It requires a government with the willpower to say to donors: ‘Here is my program in this sector: if you wish to help me implement it, you are most welcome. If you wish to do something different, I regret that you are not welcome in this sector in this country.” The foremost outcome of the proposed blended system, common pool, and sector-wide approaches, is filtration of aid received by the recipient, by adopting these approaches, will be able to locate donors that endeavor no hidden, political, or ideological agendas but only support the recipient country’s development efforts.
Hassan, Sherif (2016): Seventy Years of Official Development Assistance: Reflections on the Working Age Population. MPRA, Paper Nr. 74835.
The MENA region is ranked first in terms of remittance receipts (3.83% of GDP) worldwide, it has also the highest non-oil trade deficit among other developing regions (World Bank, 2018). This study uses panel data from 11 Labor-abundant MENA countries (main destination of remittance receipts) to examine the trade balance effect of remittances. We postulate that the main driver of the trade deficit in the MENA region is the weak industrial sector, which fails to provide domestic substitutes for imports of manufactured products (El Wassal 2012). Based on our hypothesis, we imply that in countries with weaker domestic absorptive capacity, the excessive demand of remittance-recipient families will not be compensated by domestic production, but rather imports of the consumption good, thus worsening the trade balance deficit.
The empirical work from the MENA region on the trade balance effects of remittances is limited. Bouhga-Hagbe (2004) supported the evidence of this effect in Morocco, wherein remittances covered the trade deficit and contributed to the observed surpluses of the external current account. Kandil and Mirzaie (2009) showed that remittances promote both exports and imports in Jordan while nourishing only exports in Tunisia. In the case of Egypt, El Sakka, and McNabb (1999) reported that imports financed through remittances have a high-income elasticity, thereby implying that they are either consumer durables or purchased by high-income groups. In a study, involving interviews of 304 remittance-receiving families across 16 Egyptian governorates during 2015–2016, Farzanegan et al. (2017) examined further the causes and effects of remittances. Using a panel of 17 remittances receiving countries in the MENA and Central Asia regions over a period of 1990–2009, Abdih et al. (2012) concluded that a significant portion of remittances is used to purchase foreign goods.
Our empirical results confirm the import triggering effects of remittances, however these effects are mitigated as the investment capacity of a country gets stronger and become able to neutralize foreign purchases with domestic products. Many policymakers are pushing to increase remittances as a reliable source of income by reducing transfer costs. The real challenge is promoting the productive use of these remittances in financing domestic production capabilities and non-oil exports. The channel of promoting domestic capital formation through encouraging private savings and productive use of remittances could improve the balance of trade. This can be realized by promoting financial services, which targets repatriates and their families, like saving incentives, interest rate premium on migrant’s deposits, and the issuance of remittances back bonds. Although remittances may carry some development-related outcomes, such as income smoothing, reducing poverty, and promoting education, the applied literature is still equivocal about the magnitude of these effects and the governing conditions to realising these effects. Our paper is an example of a study that has highlighted a rather countercyclical effect of the inflow of remittances on the recipient countries’ trade balance. This piece of evidence among others suggests that promoting remittances does not always come in favour for the recipient economies and is conditioned to the prevailing economic and institutional environments.
Mohammad Reza Farzanegan & Sherif Maher Hassan (2019) How does the flow of remittances affect the trade balance of the Middle East and North Africa?, Journal of Economic Policy Reform, DOI: 10.1080/17487870.2019.1609357
With the expected increase in world population by one billion people in just over a decade, governments in less developed countries are faced with the challenge of having to accommodate the majority of this future population growth. This is of concern since many of these countries currently face various social, economic and infrastructural challenges that impede their ability to adequately accommodate this increase in people. One such challenge is how to deal with the current issue of their large and youthful populations, many of which are located in slums in large cities. A large youthful population presents many opportunities for stimulating economic growth, and for building a more civil and educated community. However, as can be seen in the context of developing countries, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa, wrestling with this problem continues to be an ongoing challenge.
A related issue to population growth is that of high fertility rates in less developed countries. While many such countries have made remarkable strides in order to reduce fertility rates, for some countries, progress has been slow. For other countries, for example, those within the MENA and SSA developing regions, substantial progress has been made towards reducing fertility rates; however fertility rates in these regions still continue to be among the highest in the world. Developing regions have much larger slum populations compared to developed regions. This is in part owing to the failure of governments in these regions to adequately meet the demands (e.g., housing and jobs) of their growing population. As a result, existing slums expand and new slums emerge in order to informally accommodate the needs of this growing population. Given the typically high fertility rates in slum communities and the larger presence of slums in less developed countries that are currently facing the most pressing population growth and fertility issues, this study hypothesized that slums are in part responsible for fertility rates variations amongst less developed countries.
Analyzing data from a sample of 72 countries in the developing world, our results support the prior hypothesis that slums affect countries’ fertility rates. More specifically, the results of this study showed that an increase in the number of slum dwellers leads to a subsequent small increase in fertility rates. Additional drivers for fertility rates identified were contraceptive prevalence, female education, and infant mortality, all of which are consistent with the literature on fertility dynamics. For example, better-educated women are expected to be more knowledgeable on the use of contraceptive methods and ways of accessing them. These women may also favor fewer kids that can be well taken care of, compared to having large families where resources shared amongst family members may become stretched too thin. As a result, our analyses showed that an increase in female education reduces the instance of fertility rate. Further, while the results for contraceptive prevalence and female education were consistent across all models derived in this study, the same was not true for infant mortality, with further research needed to examine why this had occurred.
In order to test the robustness of the slum measure, this study used two measures of slum: (1) the urban slum population as a percentage of the total urban population, and (2) the urban slum population as a percentage of total population. The results of such analysis showed a similar small increase in fertility rate with the increase in the number of slum dwellers. Such empirical findings are important since they suggest that while the magnitude of slums’ impact in affecting countries’ fertility rates may be small, with the increased growth of these communities, this impact may become magnified in the future due to the multiplier effect. Thus, in order to adequately address the fertility rate issues that less developing countries are experiencing, governments in these countries should take a more active role in better managing their slum populations.
Reference: Hassan, S.M., and Mahabir, R.S. (2018). Urban slums and fertility rate differentials. Population Review, 57(2):47-74.